By: Lisa Regula-Meyer
For better or worse, Kenny’s grown up in classrooms of all sorts. His first day of class was at the tender age of two weeks, and we had Drawing II, Plant Biology II, and Piano II. I took a year between undergrad and graduate school as a “post-undergrad,” auditing classes that I hadn’t gotten a chance to take previously, working on some research projects with a faculty member, applying to grad schools, and generally easing into parenthood. I realize that it’s a huge privilege to be able to do that, and I’m grateful for that year. Since then, he’s had graduate level biology and ecology courses, history classes for graduate students, and sat in on some classes taught by myself or my husband. We’re kind of used to blending family-time and education.
Recently, we’ve been more conscious about also including everyday lessons where we can around the house, too. Rolling coins becomes a math lesson, baking and cooking can draw on both math and chemistry, driving around leads to discussions on geography and ecology, and listening to music or watching TV ends up as a history lesson. It’s not easy, but we enjoy talking as a family in a more directed manner than Kenny’s usual blathering. Honestly, he talks nearly constantly so if we can direct his verbosity in some direction other than the latest Bayblades episode, all the better.
All of this focus on education has helped him to 1) love school, 2) be comfortable asking questions and finding answers, and 3) created a minor tyrant that thinks that he must. know. EVERYthing. That need is exhausting and can be maddening when he comes up with a question that we don’t know the answer to, or that doesn’t have an easy question. Our family focus on education has also lead more than one well-meaning friend to assert that “Kenny would do so well as a home schooled kid! Have you thought about doing that?” What can I say? Our friends are interesting folk.
I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t considered it on occasion, usually after a rough day at school for him or when we get together with friends and hear all the fun things they get to do with the increased flexibility with a home-school schedule. I’d also be lying if I said any of those discussions ever ended anywhere other than, “But we’d all go insane being with him that long without a break.” Homeschooling is not in our future, but supplementing his education we are more than happy to do.
I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here before or not, but there was a time when I thought I could be an early childhood educator. Boy, was I wrong, and thankfully I had a professor who pointed out this oversight to me. I switched to biology as a major, and never looked back. Like so many other people, I assumed that simple lesson content material would equate to simplicity in teaching it. Except working with children is a whole other ball game than working with adults or young adults and helping them learn. There’s that whole development that makes a big difference- lack of logic, lack of foresight, lack of restraint, and so on.
I am very appreciative of the people who can teach small children, and the work that they do; I couldn’t do it well for all the money in the world. They’re also my peers in the educational field whom I respect to no end. My amazing students are the results of other educators’ time, talent, and yes- sometimes tears. I don’t want to take their job in my child’s life, I want to work with them to give him the best education that we can. I don’t want to cut their funds and make them work harder, with less resources; I want them to have what they need to do the job that I can’t. I don’t want to remove my child from a system that isn’t working perfectly; I want to work to improve that system for everyone’s child. To those people who can homeschool their child, more power to you, but it’s not right for our family. I still respect your right to choose the path that is best for your family, and know that I’ll be doing what I can to improve our educational system just in case you ever do need to use it instead of homeschooling. Maybe it’s a long path to travel for me to get to this point, but this is where I am. I’m happy to see people coming around to this point of view in whatever way they do. We could all stand to take a lesson from each other on how best to teach the next generation. Keep what works, change what doesn’t, and keep the baby when you toss the bathwater.